The Enigma that is Jack Eichel

What will happen next with Jack Eichel? Which teams have causes for concern? Big goalie decisions entering the playoffs. The story of Herb Carnegie.

You tell me.

Is Jack Eichel, the most overrated, disappointing high Draft pick since Alexandre Daigle picked the Ottawa Senators pocket?

Or is the pride of North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, the most misunderstood, mishandled potential ace since Maple Leafs defenseman Carl Brewer told Punch Imlach to "go take a hike?"

Brewer's postscript was something like, "My name is Cliff, drop over some time!"

Where Non-Jovial Jack will drop is anybody's guess. 

Luke Fox of Sportsnet has Eichel checked out the lights of Broadway as a New York Ranger.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post nixes that idea with assorted logical points. And since Brooks knows the Rangers better than Fox; gotta go with Larry.

This much is certain; Eichel wants out of Buffalo as early as yesterday. If not that, then tomorrow morning -- before breakfast.

At the Sabres locker-cleaning, exit-to-the-golf-course session, Jumpin' Jack said enough negative things about the team that's fattened his bank book, that a thousand I (DON'T) LIKE IKE buttons could be sold in a Buffalo minute. 

Of course, he didn't say the secret words, "I want to be traded" since that was as obvious as Niagara Falls cascading downward into the mist.

The Better Business Bureau would warn 31 other NHL teams to beware: 

1. His injury record; 2. His questionable leadership skills; 3. His inability to play winning hockey after being gifted with Taylor Hall as a sidecar.

But the Sabres ten-year playoff drought means that a few things will have to be done to encourage the battered fan base. Outing Eichel will top a list that stretches all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Which means that Buffalo's g.m. Kevyn Adams has to do a Madison Avenue sales job; pitching all of Eichel's plusses while finding an eager

hockey boss.

If such favorites as Tampa Bay, Colorado, Vegas or Carolina exit the first round Stage Left, any one of them might figure that nabbing Eichel is the right thing to do.

Hey, Webster didn't invent the word conundrum for nothing.

(Something tells me that Kevyn Adams just got himself a suite at the Hotel What-Do-I-Do-Now.)


Stan’s Java Jive

HEADLINE: CAUSES FOR CONCERN IN MANY PLACES

THE JIVE: There are many issues involving several teams which missed the playoffs and a biggie in Carolina, a serious Cup contender. Canes g.m. Don Waddell and the Dougie Hamilton camp agree that there's a "sizeable gap" in terms of contract negotiations. No question that Hamilton is the most appetizing free agent on the market and would be coveted in a dozen places. This could drag right up to the Free Agent Frenzy. Meanwhile, Blue Jackets g.m. Jarmo Kakalainen will have his hands full trying to keep Seth Jones in the Ohio city. Like Hamilton in Raleigh, Jones in Columbus is the balance wheel of his team. The word is that Jarmo will tempt Jones with the captaincy but that's only a "C" and Jonesey may prefer a $. "I really have to step back and see what I want," says Seth, sounding like a Jack Eichel. Then there's the matter of a couple of coaches awaiting their fate -- David Quinn with Rangers and Jeff Blashill in Detroit. Both Chris Drury and Steve Yzerman have heard from their players. The axe should drop or a new contract signed very soon in both cities. Speaking of coaches, it seems that Rick Tocchet must know that he's wanted somewhere in the NHL. One commentator said that the exited Arizona coach "did more with less than any mentor in the NHL." ... Finally, woe in Tampa Bay. Wounded Victor Hedman will avoid a medical until after the playoffs. Which means he's gonna be playing hurt. Then there's growing uncertainty over Nikita Kucherov's return in mint condition. Ditto for Steven Stamkos.


HEADLINE: INTERESTING GOALTENDING DECISIONS

THE JIVE: When a club such as the Vegas Golden Knights have two equally competent goaltenders ready for the playoffs, it has a baseball counterpart. A diamond manager often puzzles over who to start in a playoff game or the World Series and there have been interesting surprises. In Vegas it will be either The Comeback Kid, Marc-Andre Fleury, or the younger but well-proven Robin Lehner. My guess is that coach Peter DeBoer will go with Lehner and that's purely a gut feeling. On Long Island, coach Barry Trotz has a netminding tandem reminiscent of Billy Smith and Chico Resch. It says here that Semyon Varlamov will get the start based on his superior season but Ilya Sorokin has done equally as well. No question in my mind that Trotz will star Varly against the Pens and then see what happens.


HEADLINE: THE ALMOST FIRST BLACK NHL PLAYER

THE JIVE: During the mid and late 1940s the Original All-Black line played in the fast Quebec Senior Hockey League. The QSHL produced such Hall of Famers as defenseman Doug Harvey and center Jean Beliveau. Their opponents were Herb and Ossie Carnegie along with Manny McIntyre. The trio skated for the Sherbrooke Saints and were seen by New Yorkers playing inter-league games at old Madison Square Garden. The Brown Bombers were very good and Herbie was the best.

Now for the sad -- very mysterious -- story. The sad part is that Herb had a chance to play in the NHL but, in the end, refused the conditions. The mysterious part was that their wasn't a single line about Carnegie's audition in the New York papers. Mind you this was when Jackie Robinson was making his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. According to all available info that I could extract, Rangers boss Frank Boucher wanted Carnegie to do what the Dodgers' Branch Rickey insisted of Robbie; play a season in the minors; then come to the big club. Robinson did just that.

Boucher's offer was similar; play an AHL season in New Haven and then graduate to the NHL, providing you're good enough. Herbie, who was married and had children, rejected the salary offer and returned to the QSHL where he could make more money. Which helps somewhat to explain why there was a long wait between Herb Carnegie at the Rangers camp and Willy O'Ree being the first black player in the NHL.


HEADLINE: ANALYZING THE JETS TAILSPIN

THE JIVE: What gives with Winnipeg? It wasn't that long ago when Paul Maurice's outfit looked good enough to challenge Toronto in the North. Lately, they've more resembled an expansion team in the West Kildonan Midget League. To get the answer, I sought my Chief Aeronautical Engineer, Gus Vic."The Jets malaise is baffling," says Vic. "The effort hasn't been lacking yet each night I watch them it's like having a front row seat at the same movie, hoping the end will change while knowing that it will not." Maybe they were playing possum. Winnipeg looked good winning last night.


HEADLINE: HOW UPSETS CAN HAPPEN

THE JIVE: Poof! Just like that Gus Vic has put on his historian's hat and produced proof positive that the mighty can be manacled in the playoffs. "I hark back to 1985-86," Vic recalls. "Edmonton was 6-0-1 vs. Calgary in the first seven regular season games. But the Flames won the final meeting, 9-3. We all know what happened in Round Two that year. Exit the Gretzkys!


TRIVIA CORNER:

A Hall of Fame right wing was a fighting hero of the Canadian Army in World War I before becoming a Ranger ace. Who was he? (Thanks to author George Grimm for this one.)

Answer below.


CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "I know my players don't like my practices, but that's okay because I don't like their games."

-Harry Neale when coaching the Vancouver Canucks.


TRIVIA ANSWER: Bill Cook joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915. For two years he was an artilleryman in France as well as the Belgian front.

Cook was involved in some of the bloodiest battles including Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Bridge -- where Lady Byng's husband also was a hero -- and Hill 70. After the war he served in Siberia fighting as part of the Russian Civil War. Hockey was easy after that.